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of opinion, that they had fallen into that absurd form of idolatry which consists in worshipping fire; that Ur, a name which signifies fire, was then the seat of this foolish practice; that, upon Terah's attempting a reformation, a rupture took place between his family and the rulers of Chaldea, which led to the expulsion of him and his adherents from that country. Be this as it may, Terah with Abram, Nahor and his sons, and with Lot the son of Haran, (for Haran himself died in Ur of the Chaldees,) left that place in quest of a new and more comfortable settlement: and having found a pleasant tract of country in Mesopotámia, they halted, and began to make some improvements. They built a small town, which they called the city of Nahor, and gave to the country the name of Haran, their deceased relative, whose remains they had left in Chaldea. Here Terah died; and after his death, corruption creeping into his family, many of them apostatized from God and became idolaters. It was here, and on this occasion, that the call was repeated to Abram, in a way, doubtless, which satisfied him that it was from God, to come out, and be separate from the workers of iniquity; to maintain the worship of Jehovah in the midst of surrounding corruption; to forsake all who would not join him in that reasonable service; to follow the Lord whithersoever he might conduct him, and to yield himself entirely to the care of his providence and the influence of his grace.
To the nature and design of this call, and to the promptitude with which Abram obeyed it, your attention is now requested. And these are topics worthy our attention; for, in the family of Abram, if I mistake not, you are to look for the visible church of God in its post-diluvian infancy. It is true, that, before this time, there were persons in the world who feared the Lord and thought upon his name; who worshipped him in spirit and in truth, and were blessed in their deed. But these were the Lord's hidden ones—they were not formed into a community distinct, or easily distinguishable, from the rest of mankind; whereas, now, at the calling of Abram, a church was organized and made clearly visible, that is, a people were called out from the world united, by divine authority, in the belief of revealed truth, and in the observance of certain rites and or. dinances of divine appointment, with a view to the glory of the Creator, and the happiness of his faithful worshippers; which is the true import of the term church. We hope, also, to make it appear in the sequel, that the Abrahamic vocation and covenant constitute a part of the gracious scheme of redemption by the blood of Christ; that the measure was adopted in wisdom; that there was in it no indication of partiality, or favouritism, on the part of God; and that its influence on the state of the world has been, in a high degree, salutary and benevolent. And,
it may be, that, in the readiness with which the father of the faithful obeyed the heavenly summons, we shall find an example at once animating to the people of God, and worthy the imitation of all who would wish to become the children of Abraham, by faith in the Lord Jesus.
I. For a right understanding of the nature of this call, we must look carefully at the meaning of the terms in which it is communicated. These are intelligible, expressive, and peremptory: “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee.”— Country, kindred, and paternal residence, are all to be forsaken in obedience to the divine command. This appears to be a hard condition. The love of our country is an amiable affection; and it is one which generally gains strength as we advance in years. Habit incorporates and establishes it as a principle of our nature; so that few men, at the age of seventy-five years, the age to which Abram had now attained, are easily persuaded to encounter the sacrifices and hardships attendant on a change of country. To our kindred we are connected by the most endearing ties, and to part from them without any hope of being restored to their society and embraces, is like resigning a portion of our own flesh and blood. This we feel when our friends remove from us to a distant part of the world; and, especially, when death makes a breach in our domestic circle, and consigns to the darkness of the grave, the desire of our eyes, the child of our love, the companion of our social comforts. Abram was not required to leave all his relatives, for some of them chose to accompany him and join with him in the true worship of God; but those who served the creature rather than the Creator, who complied with the idolatrous practices of the country, or indulged in licentiousness and vice, were to be forsaken, as companions, on the principle, that “ Evil communications corrupt good manners.
It is not probable that the inhabitants of Canaan were a better people than those of either Ur or Haran; but, being strangers, the influence of their bad example and wicked maxims would be less likely to prove pernicious to Abram and his family. An ungodly relative, or an intimate associate and old acquaintance, of a bad character, is a much more dangerous companion than a stranger, into whose company we may be occasionally thrown in the transaction of business, and to whom we feel no other attachment than that of humanity and good will. So frail are we, and liable to be overcome of evil, that natural affection and personal respect may, in an unguarded moment, shake our faith, or diminish our sense of duty to God our Saviour. Hence, our blessed Lord declares, expressly, that instances shall occur, in which, “ A man's foes shall be those of his own household.”
Matt, x. 36. “ And thy father's house." A father's house comprises charms of endearment, which every one feels; but which no language can rightly describe. It is the place where we are first visited by the preventing benignity of Providence. Here it is that we are fed and protected with parental tenderness. Here it is that we begin to walk, to speak, to love, and to sympathize. Here we receive our first religious ideas,-are taught to pray,—to read, -to think, and to sing of redeeming mercy. In a word, it is the scene of our earliest, and, generally, of our purest pleasures. The principle of association makes its very defects delightful in our esteem: and to quit it, with no rational prospect of seeing it again, is always a painful trial. Abram could not have been insensible to it. The family had made one removal, from Ur to Haran. Here they had built a city, and were flattering themselves no doubt, with the pleasant idea of dwelling together in unity. Terah had deceased; but here was his sepulchre, and the venerated seat of his late residence. A thousand objects would conspire to attach the children to the spot where the father's ashes were deposited. Abram himself, had now arrived at that period of life, when the spirit of enterprise and experimenting usually gives place to the love of tranquillity and home. But God commands him to arise and go forth; and, as a good man, he may neither hesitate, nor inquire whither or wherefore. Behold here, reader, the grand and fundamental principle of practical piety! supreme regard to the authority and will of God. Without this, our religion is but a name,-a shadow,-a dream, -a thing of no value. Difficulties and doubts
and often do arise, respecting what God does require of us. And here wisdom is profitable to direct; our judgment is to be exercised, and our decision formed, in the light of such evidence as we may be able to collect on the subject. And should we err through weakness, or invincible ignorance, we may hope for pardon; for He, who made us, knows our frame and remembers that we are dust; and “there is forgiveness with him, that he may be feared.” But in a plain case, where the law of our duty is intelligible and explicit, as the Bible makes it, in all important matters, we may neither gainsay nor expostulate. Nor need we be backward to render prompt obedience in every instance; for, though the Almighty acts and commands as a sovereign, yet, from the perfection of his nature, we are assured that all his ways are right, and all his commandments holy and good. His will is the true and only standard of right, and forms the immutable distinction between moral good and evil. Men who talk of ascertaining what is duty, by a reference to the law of nature and nations,—the fitness of things,—the dictates of right reason,-of common sense,-of humanity,-of con
science,—the law of honour, &c. do but darken counsel by. words without knowledge. These are mutable things, and par. take largely of that fallibility and imperfection which characterise the human mind, in its best, and most highly cultivated state. But, in Him, who does his pleasure in heaven and on earth, there is neither variableness, nor shadow of turning. Blessed are they that do his commandments, hearkening to the voice of his word !Abram was required to leave his home, his friends, and his country, for a land as yet undefined, and to him utterly unknown. And relying on the power, submitting to the will, and confiding in the truth and goodness of the Lord,“ he went out, not knowing whither he went.”
Nor is it a vain thing to serve the Lord, however repulsive or painful it may seem to our depravity and self-will. The sinner who submits to God, thereby, repairs to the throne of grace, accepts of mercy, and takes shelter under the wings of the Almighty. Abram did so; and he was blessed, and made a blessing to many. He knew whom he believed; and he had the best possible ground to expect both grace and glory. His faith rested securely on the sure word of testimony—even on the word of the Lord which endureth for ever.
II. We inquire, secondly, into the design of this extraordinary call. God does nothing in vain. Every precept of his word-every ordinance of his appointment, and every act of his providence has for its object the accomplishment of some great and good end. Of the end to be answered by the dispensation, now under consideration, we have a concise and comprehensive view in the text: “ And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing. And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and, in thee, shall all families of the earth be blessed.”
These words, I think, warrant us to consider the design, as three-fold; viz. The glory of God; the happiness of Abram; and the good of mankind in general. First, the glory of God.
This is the highest, the holiest, and the best end that can be named or conceived of by men or angels. And it is obviously implied, in the first clause of the passage of Sacred Writ, just cited : “ I will make of thee a great nation.” That is, as the subsequent history authorizes us to expound the promise, I will distinguish thee and thy descendants from all other people, by my presence,-my favour,-my power my truths, and my ordinances. I will make of thee a peculiar people,-a nation of which I will be both king and lawgiver, nation in which I will manifest my providence, my justice, my munificence, patience and clemency ;-a nation with which I will deposit my oracles, and establish a covenant comprising blessings temporal, Vol. II.-Presb. Mag.
spiritual and eternal-a nation which, though full of faults, and guilty of frequent partial apostacies, shall yet, in the main, be zealous for my honour, and for the purity of my worship. And who does not perceive that the glory of Jehovah was maintained and promoted in the world by these exhibitions of his character, and of his claims to the homage of his intelligent creatures ? Once and again, had all flesh corrupted their ways, and forsaken the Lord that made them. Scarcely had the waters of the deluge dried up, when men, growing vain in their imaginations," began to change the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds and fourfooted beasts and creeping things.” The Chaldeans paid divine honours to fire—the Persians worshipped the host of heaven-and Egypt ranked among her numerous divinities, the ox, the crocodile, and the serpent. So that, had not God chosen a people for his praise, and dwelt among them by the visible symbols of his presence, his very name would soon have been for. gotten and lost, amidst the rabble of imaginary deities—the spawn of human depravity and ignorance.
Secondly, the honour and happiness of Abram. “I will bless thee, and make thy name great: and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee.” If the Lord tries his people, and requires them to exercise self-denial, and to follow him in a way which they have not known, it is for their good, as they shall assuredly find in the issue. Abram was tried ; and he was blessed—blessed personally and relatively, temporarily, and eternally. God manifested himself to him in a variety of instances; protected him by his power, and comforted him by his grace. Wherever Abram made any considerable stay in the course of his pilgrimage, there he built an altar unto the Lord, and there Jehovah condescended to accept his offerings, and strengthen his faith, by renewing the promises; affording him more enlarged views of his great and merciful designs towards him and his seed, and, through that channel, to a lost and guilty world. He was given to see the Redeemer's day, and made to joy and rejoice in him, as the desire of nations.“ I will make thy name great.” This promise has been clearly fulfilled. Abram, though not distinguished as a statesman, a warrior, a great genius, an inventor of arts, or writer of books, is, nevertheless, the most famous man that ever lived. Not only the twelve tribes of Israel, but the Arabians, his descendants in the line of Ishmael, glory in retracing their descent from the father of the faithful. The apostle Paul speaks of him in a way which shows that God delighted to honour him, and make his name great, to the latest generations : when he says, believers in Christ are blessed with faithful Abraham.” And again, " we are all the children of Abraham by faith.” The apostle